Arthur E. Hess, 89; Social Security Official Became First Medicare Director

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Arthur E. Hess, 89, the deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration who became the first director of the Medicare program, died Nov. 15 of complications from dementia at his home in Charlottesville, Va.

A native of Reading, Pa., Hess graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton University and earned his law degree at the University of Maryland.

He began working for the Social Security Administration in 1939 and headed the agency’s disability research operation in the late ‘40s.

In 1954, he became director of the Division of Disability Operations, at the start of the disability benefits program.


In the mid-1960s, he became the first director of the Bureau of Health Insurance, and was the first executive in charge of the Medicare program, according to the agency’s official history.

After retiring from government service in 1974, Hess served as a senior member and scholar in residence at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

He was also a founding member of the National Academy of Social Insurance.